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David Mittleman
| Grewal Law, PLLC

When you think of harmful pollutants you might picture a smog filled sky or an oil slick, but the reality is that when it comes to cancer-causing agents, parking lots may be the worst offenders. According to recent studies, the sealant coal tar used in parking lots is particularly harmful for children and is spreading across American cities at an alarming rate.

Four recent studies show that coal tar-based asphalt sealants are likely health risks. Coal tar is typically sprayed onto parking lots and driveways to preserve the asphalt but children living near parking lots are particularly at risk for contamination. Specifically, one of the study's researchers says that children from 3 to 5 years old are getting exposed at an alarming rate and when they go outside and play near these areas, their contamination levels are even worse.

Coal tar is a by-product of the steel industry and in 1992 the EPA declared that it would not be classified as a hazardous waste because it could be recycled rather than being thrown away or incinerated, which is costly for the steel industry. Before last year, coal tar sealants were used in all 50 states until Washington State banned the products. Austin, TX, Washington, D.C. and several other local governments have also followed suit.

Several lawmakers have also joined the movement to get rid of coal tar use in parking lots, including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic congressman from the Austin area who previously filed legislation for a nationwide ban. Rep. Doggett plans to refile legislation soon, but is currently involved in a redistricting fight. On the other side of the fight, The Pavement Coatings Technology Council has resisted the bans, sometimes successfully, despite the health risks.

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